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Chile launches higher ed mental health plan

A comprehensive new plan aimed at helping students across Chile look after their mental health has been lauded by the country’s undersecretary for higher education.

Multiple government entities were involved in the plan's launch. Photo: Pexels

70% of Chilean universities have provisions in place for mental health

The plan, which was launched at the University of Chile, will aim to tackle “alarming rises” in students being affected by their mental health amid a return to in-person education after the Covid pandemic.

While aimed at both domestic and international students alike, Undersecretary for Higher Education Victor Orellana assured the plan will “contemplate unique matters pertaining to international students and also migrant students”.

In 2021, Chile hosted a total of 33,156 international students, 31,995 who came from Latin America and the Caribbean, government statistics show. In 2017, there were 20,150 international students in the country.

“The council has the mandate to review, with a wide spectrum, the policies, mechanisms and actions that favour the integral wellbeing of the student body, welcoming its diversity,” a representative for the undersecretary told The PIE.

“In this sense, the recommendations that will eventually be made from the Advisory Council will benefit all students who undertake undergraduate or postgraduate studies in Chilean institutions – regardless of their nationality,” the office said.

Multiple government entities, including the ministry of education, the ministry of public health, and the University of Chile were involved in the launch. The university’s vice-rector of student affairs said that institutional-governmental collaboration was “fundamental” to the plan’s success.

“It is important to understand that wellbeing and mental health is a condition for the guaranteed right to education – from primary education to higher education, with separate areas of support,” said Maria Teresa Ramirez, a specialist included on a discussion panel at the launch.

The University of Chile reported in the last year that requests for mental health support from students, both domestic and international, had risen by 167% year-on-year.

During the meeting, it was also revealed that just shy of 70% of Chilean universities have provisions in place for mental health needs, and only 44% of technical education colleges have them.

“It was a concern and commitment made by president Gabriel Boric to emphasise the mental health of the students of higher education institutions in Chile,” said the undersecretary’s representative.

“The plan contemplates unique matters pertaining to international students and also migrant students”

“Together, the students, through their leaders, had also asked the Ministry of Education for the need to prepare a plan, which has already begun with [the meeting at the University of Chile],” it said.

The advisory council, which includes the undersecretary, as well as rectors and specialists from across Chilean institutions and government departments, has been tasked with putting together an action plan by December 2023.

“The new mission for the council will be to deliver proposals for public policies to address the issue,” the office noted.

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